Chlorine Restrictions Due To Security Concerns Help Fuel Spread Of Cholera In Iraq

On Sept. 16, Dr. Mohammed, a dentist in Baghdad and author of the blog Last Of Iraqis, wrote about the possibility of cholera in the city as he described and photographed the changes in water coming from the tap in his home:


This week the World Health Organization confirmed Dr. Mohammed’s fears, with cases confirmed in Baghdad and Basra. The disease had been previously limited to the northern Kurdish provinces, with the number of infected at over 7,000.

Iraq’s deputy health minister, Dr. Adel Mohsin said that further spread of the epidemic was “very likely” in the capital without water testing and maintaining sufficient levels of chlorination, which kills the bacteria. Mohsin said teams testing in the capital had found chlorine levels were insufficient to prevent cholera in 20 areas.

Chlorine imports have been dramatically curtailed in the wake of insurgent bombs that used chlorine. Dr. Naeema al-Gasseer, the WHO’s representative in Iraq, said some 100,000 tons of chlorine were being held up at Iraq’s border with Jordan because of fears the chemical could be used in explosives, leaving Baghdad with only a week’s supply.

Cholera “is a gastrointestinal disease that is typically spread by drinking contaminated water and can, in extreme cases, can lead to fatal dehydration.” Cholera is fairly simple to manage under ordinary circumstances, but the precarious security situation in the country prevents medical teams from reaching the ill, and the mass displacement of the population into unsanitary conditions makes control and treatment difficult.

— Candyce G.

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